The recently published report on air quality in our capital is very worrying. Data from seven months of monitoring showed air pollution peaked in January this year, with air quality levels in parts of Kampala reaching up to 230 micrograms per cubic metre, 10 times above the tolerable limit. This seriously harms the health of the city’s inhabitants by exposing the population to the risk of respiratory diseases, brain damage, kidney damage, liver damage and even birth defects. According to measurements taken at most of the 120 air quality monitoring stations, the air quality ranges from moderate to unhealthy.
The trend of pollution being mainly generated by dusty unpaved roads and smoke from vehicle exhaust and waste burning is concerning, especially in the absence of zoning for various activities or limits and enforcement of regulations on emissions. Fortunately, the new report comes with some assurance of future action in terms of regulation and enforcement in the form of the Kampala Clean Air Action Plan. With this and the regulations and limits to be enforced by the National Environmental Management Authority, it is hoped that pollution levels will be reduced and air quality maintained at acceptable levels.
While a positive development, these regulations, like other environmental standards before them, should not just be kept on the books, but enforced to reduce pollution levels. Air quality, such as noise levels, water quality and other parameters should be continuously monitored and statistics available for evaluation and action. A healthier population living with less pollution reduces the burden of disease, the cost of health services and promotes harmonious living within our communities.
Enforcement of similar environmental pollution regulations has not been thorough or successful in the past, creating chaotic and unlivable spaces where some entities exist at a high cost to their neighbors due to the extent to which they pollute the air, bodies of water and other common areas. .
The effects of environmental pollution are often slow to show up or less than obvious, but that doesn’t make them any less serious.
Environmental pollution is a slow but powerful poison that eats away at public health, sometimes beyond repair. The population of urban centers like Kampala continues to grow. Unplanned and unregulated, pollution levels could climb to ungovernable and risky levels. The law should be enforced to stem the tide before the situation gets worse.